Being a vegan, there are different foods that you are going to be consuming in your day to day diet; and a diet as drastically altered as that of veganism has different daily requirements. Thus, a slightly altered look at the food pyramid. As a vegan, you need to find sources of calcium, protein and iron; plants offer us everything we need if we know where to look, and within each section, examples of these sources will be listed.
The foundation of the pyramid is (now) divided between Fruits and Vegetables, which are an invaluable source for essential vitamins and nutrients, with 3-5 servings a day for vegetables and 2-4 for fruits. The nice thing about this section – a safe zone – no fear of dairy or animal byproducts (so you can just grab it and go, worry-free!). The only exception to that, which one should be aware of, is that many tomatoes and cucumbers found in the produce aisle are injected with an enzyme from fish to help retain their fresh, plump look.
- Kale: rich in antioxidants, as well as carotene, vitamins A, C, K, the B vitamins, calcium and iron
- Seaweed: antioxidant rich, also a good source of carotene, calcium, iron and vitamin K
- Pumpkin: rich in potassium, magnesium and iron, zinc and omega-3’s
- Persimmon: a good source of vitamin’s a, c, B1 (thiamine), B9 (folic acid), potassium, and beta-carotene
The next level on the pyramid is the Grains, with 6-11 servings a day. There is an array of great supplement choices here as well. Two exceptional examples are:
- Quinoa: a complete protein, with all of the essential amino acids, as well as lysine, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium and B2 (riboflavin)
- Semolina: rich in protein, fibre, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin’s B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Just be careful when you are seeking out pasta, as there are certain kinds that are made with dairy and many breads have animal (dairy) by-products included in their ingredients.
Next, we have our Dairy Substitutes; fortified for the vegan diet. There is a delicious array of choices for many different tastes to be found here. For milk specifically, there is soy, rice, oat, hemp, coconut and almond; all of which can be found in different flavours and with varying levels of protein. There are also different flavored cheeses, yogurts, ice-creams and spreads.
In conjunction with dairy, we have the Legumes, Seeds and Beans portion of the pyramid with 2-3 servings. As well, this constitutes perhaps the largest part of the average vegan’s diet, as a result of the plethora of meat-substitute foods that are available.
- Chick peas: rich source of protein and calcium
- Soybeans: an obvious substitute for the meat-free diet due to their protein rich content, and a vast array of alternative to choose from, (basically every kind of meat you can think of – there is a soy-based substitute for that). They are also a good source of fibre, vitamin’s B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, vitamins C, E and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Lastly, we have our Oils, Spices & Sweets. As delectable as this part of the pyramid is, moderation is important here more than anywhere else. An important thing to note, is that there are only certain sugars that are in fact vegan; as both brown and white sugar, though they start out as cane sugar, go through a refining process that passes them through a filter which contains (in the case of most companies) charred animal bone char in order to bleach it; exempting them from vegan status, (yes, this does include both brown and golden sugars; the color is re-added).
The vegan sugars include: unrefined cane sugar, Demerara, turbinado, date sugar, beet sugar, stevia, xylitol, Sucanat and palm (if acquired from a sustainable source as that which can be found within the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil) and agave nectar, molasses, brown rice, barley malt, fruit and maple syrups for your liquid sweeteners. As for spices, nutritional yeast is an ideal (and easy) source for protein, which can be added to smoothies, soups, salads, oatmeal – just about anything.
Some excellent resources for a vegan diet:
www.chooseveg.com – offers recipes for every meal, advice, and how to be vegan on a budget. http://vegankit.com – comprehensively guides you on all aspects of becoming a vegan.
"Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable"
Gary L Francione